Success is not God’s seal of approval

More Monday morning wisdom from Paul Tripp here directed to pastors in ministry but applicable to all Christians.  In particular Tripp writes from experience on his wrong understanding that success in his ministry had to be taken as a sign that God was happy with the way he was living his life.

It’s easy to fall into the temptation of assuming that observable blessings – growth in numbers, commitment, desire for the souls of the lost, must be God’s seal of approval on the way I’m living my life.  In reality we need to continually cry out to God

Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!Psalm 139:23-24

Tripp writes of his own experience,

I confused ministry success with God’s endorsement of my living. Pastoral ministry was exciting in many ways. The church was growing numerically, and people seemed to be growing spiritually. More and more people seemed to be committed to be part of a vibrant spiritual community, and we saw people win battles of the heart by God’s grace. We founded a Christian school that was growing and expanding its reputation and influence. We were beginning to identify and disciple leaders.

It wasn’t all rosy; there were painful and burdensome moments, but I started out my days with a deep sense of privilege that God had called me to do this ministry. I was leading a community of faith, and God was blessing our efforts. But I held these blessings in the wrong way. Without knowing that I was doing it, I took God’s faithfulness to me, to his people, to the work of his kingdom, to his plan of redemption, and to his church as an endorsement of me. My perspective said, “I’m one of the good guys, and God is behind me all the way.” In fact, I would say to Luella (this is embarrassing but important to admit), “If I’m such a bad guy, why is God blessing everything I put my hands to?”

God did not act because he endorsed my manner of living, but because of his zeal for his own glory and his faithfulness to his promises of grace for his people.

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